Thomas is happy to be home; he cannot wait to put his feet up after a long day at Downton.
As he opens the door, Thomas is greeted by a figure pressing itself against his middle and holding out a tray wrapped with newspaper and containing crisps that are already making his mouth water.
"Papa taught me how to make crisps!" James exclaims excitedly.
As if summoned by his name, Richard comes into the front hall and kisses Thomas fondly.
"Try one, Thomas!" Richard encourages, with almost the same amount of excitement as is visible on James's face.
"They had better be incredible for all the excitement you two are showing." Thomas teases, taking a crisp.
It is warm and delicious, and clearly shows the hard work that James and Richard have put into making it.
"Fabulous! You always cook extremely well. I said before we moved in together that there likely wasn't anything that you can't do." Thomas says.
Richard smiles. "I remember."
"Oh that was such a disaster." Thomas laughs.
"The biscuits weren't half-bad." Richard reminds Thomas.
"So you said." Thomas smiles.
"And you've taught James to make crisps as well? He seems to become more like you every day. Not that it is a bad thing. Better than me at least." Thomas says slightly self-deprecatingly.
"That is not true, love." Richard endears Thomas.
"Mhhm." Thomas hums noncommittally.
"I am serious. Do you remember when we first got James?" Richard says. "After everything he did to you, I can appreciate him for at least one thing."
Richard has said it cursorily, but at his words, Thomas casts his mind back to when they had gotten James.
Thomas is so content; he cannot imagine moving at this moment.
There is a warm fire blazing in the fireplace, and the room has a pleasant warmth. In truth, Thomas is wrapped in a blanket in addition to the fire because he is feeling the chill keenly after being out in the snow for several hours that day setting up decorations for the Crawleys to use for Christmas.
Richard has been perched in the soft armchair next to the sofa for an hour or so, deep into a new book that he has purchased for his bookstore. Many people had suggested the book for the shop, so Richard had decided that he needed to read it first to see what all the fuss was about. He has not been disappointed. In fact, he has been so interested in the book that he has been almost neglecting Thomas for several days, which Thomas had taken playful offense to.
Partially to distract Richard and partially because he truly is cold, Thomas shivers dramatically, which draws Richard's attention to him.
"Are you cold, darling?" Richard inquires.
Thomas nods mischievously.
"Shall I get your scarf?" Richard teases, laughing as he says it.
He is referring, of course, to the scarf that Marion has made specially for Thomas to match Richard's extremely long and colorful scarf that he had worn on his visit to Downton after outwitting Arthur, who was trying to blackmail Richard. Marion had given him the scarf on their last visit to Richard's parents' house.
Thomas smiles and almost loses his train of thought at the reminder of that very warm scarf. He shakes his head.
"Well then, can I get you a bit of liquor or another blanket to take the chill off?" Richard asks, standing up and pulling his beautiful bright red sweater back into place. He is wearing it because Thomas has told him that he likes red on Richard. Plus, it is warm.
Before Thomas can respond, Richard walks into the hall and up the stairs to the linen closet where they keep the extra blankets. He returns a moment later with a heavy blanket.
As Richard bends over him to place the blanket over his already blanketed body, Thomas tugs firmly on the collar of Richard's sweater, knocking Richard slightly off-balance.
Richard falls onto the sofa on top of Thomas and Thomas feels a rush of warmth in his body.
"There. I can feel my temperature rising already. I am no longer cold." Thomas says matter-of-factly, making Richard laugh.
Thankfully, Richard makes no move to stand up and go back to his chair.
"Well, if you need me to keep you warm…." Richard trails off.
"Mhm. I do." Thomas murmurs happily.
After a few minutes of content silence, Richard's fingers wander absentmindedly toward the buttons of Thomas's shirt, which he has not yet taken off since getting home, cold as he was. Thomas knows that this particular course of action will likely result in him getting cold first, but he is certainly not going to object.
Just as Richard gets a slightly firmer grip on the buttons, the door to the flat slams open to reveal Jimmy, with bright red cheeks caused by the cold and a wind-blown face.
Jimmy's eyes take in the position that Thomas and Richard are in, and his cheeks colour again, this time due to a blush from embarrassment.
"Jimmy?" Thomas says, sitting up slightly and subsequently sliding Richard from his position on top of Thomas.
Richard looks appropriately concerned, but quickly takes up his position as host, assigned to him because of his generous and compassionate disposition, ushering Jimmy in and inviting him to sit in the armchair while Richard goes into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
It is only once Jimmy is seated carefully in an armchair across the fire, not the one in which Richard was previously sitting, and Thomas is satisfied that Jimmy is warm enough that Thomas notices that Jimmy is holding a bundle wrapped in a soft salmon-coloured blanket.
"What's that, Jimmy?" Thomas gestures at the blanket-wrapped object, feeling relaxed because Jimmy has calmed down from the way he was when he slammed the door open a few minutes earlier.
However, this is short-lived because when Thomas indicates the blanket Jimmy begins to get hysterical again. "Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!" He exclaims.
Thomas rushes to comfort him. "What is it, Jimmy?" He asks, placing a hand on Jimmy's shoulder.
"Well, guess I can't hide it anymore." Jimmy says resignedly, carefully unwrapping the blanket to reveal a small face concealed inside, connected to an infant not more than maybe one or two years old.
At this precise moment, Richard returns from the kitchen with two cups of tea. When he sees the baby, his grip on the cups involuntarily loosens and he accidentally drops the cup.
Quick as lightning, Jimmy's hand darts out to catch the cup and he manages to avoid breaking the cup as well not spill a single drop of liquid.
Despite themselves, Thomas and Richard clap appreciatively at Jimmy's reflexes before turning their attention back to the baby.
"Jimmy, where did that baby come from?" Thomas hedges.
Jimmy looks at the floor and sighs. "I-I been so stupid, really. He is mine."
Thomas gasps in genuine surprise while Richard, who is a much better judge of character, simply raises his eyebrows in interest.
"She-she left me with him. I love him; I really do, but what am I gonna do?" Jimmy adds, visibly distressed.
"We are both piano players, and she was more focused on her career. I tried to take care of him, but with work and everything, it is getting to be too much."
Thomas considers asking who exactly "she" is, then decides that he does not really want to know.
"How old is he?" Richard inquires.
"A year and a half." Jimmy replies quickly.
"Why have you brought him here? We haven't heard from you in two years." Thomas asks the main question.
Jimmy pauses and looks at the floor. His cheeks fill with colour and he looks ashamed. "I-I dunno."
Thomas can tell that this is clearly not the case.
The infant looks up at him endearingly, and Thomas is instantly attached.
"Well, that's alright. I am certain Anna will know how to take care of this child…." Thomas trails off.
"James." Jimmy supplies helpfully.
"An apt name." Richard says wryly.
Jimmy blushes again.
"Well I am certain that we can put you up for the night in the rooms at Downton, given how few staff there are left." Thomas says.
Thomas and Richard have an idea of what Jimmy intended by bringing James to their home.
But it is too soon to make a decision on that score.
"Unless you have somewhere that you are urgently needed?" Thomas asks.
"N-no. Thank you Mr Barrow." Jimmy says gratefully and earnestly, leading Thomas to wonder what his current situation is, if he even has a home.
"You look like you need some rest, Jimmy. Would you like to leave James here tonight?" Richard offers, almost reading Thomas's mind, which only endears him further to Thomas.
"Would that be alright? I am so sorry to inconvenience you." Jimmy responds.
"Certainly." Thomas agrees. "Go on up to the house now and get some rest. We'll come check on you in the morning. You can have your old room; there's certainly no one presently staying in it." Thomas sounds a bit dejected with this final line.
"Thank you so much." Jimmy expresses gratefully. "Mr Barrow. Mr Ellis." He nods at each of them in turn before opening the door and taking his leave.
With Jimmy gone, Thomas and Richard take the time to look more closely at James.
He has Jimmy's facial features, but his physique seems slightly different from Jimmy's, perhaps that of his mother's.
The infant reaches upwards and gently grasps Thomas's nose, making Thomas laugh.
"Oh, Richard, he is so cute." Thomas looks pleadingly at Richard.
Richard, who until this point has looked extremely skeptical and unconvinced by James, softens considerably at Thomas's expression.
Even if he is not particularly fond of children, he gets along well enough with them. He knows that Thomas loves children and wants a few of his own, something that he will never have.
Richard relents slightly; he loves his boyfriend and Thomas deserves the world.
"Richard…." Thomas trails off.
"We don't know if Jimmy's intention is to take James with him. He just said that he was struggling to take care of him. You said that he struggled with you being how we are." Richard points out pragmatically.
Thomas's lips turn slightly downward.
"But if he wishes to leave James with us, I won't object." Richard continues. "I know you have always wished for children."
Richard is going to talk more, but he is silenced by Thomas's lips on his and Thomas's arms around his middle in a passionate embrace.
"I love you, Richard Ellis." Thomas murmurs.
"I love you too, Thomas Barrow." Richard whispers into his ear.
Thomas had interpreted the signs correctly, as he finds out the next day.
"Did you have something in mind for James, Jimmy?" Thomas and Richard ask together; Richard has his eyebrows raised, as is characteristic of him.
Jimmy blushes, the colour spreading across his whole face in shame.
Richard walks around to Jimmy and places his hands on Jimmy's shoulders uncharacteristically.
"If you want us to take care of him, we will be pleased to do so. The only thing that we ask is that you leave him to us and do not come back to take him from us, knowing fully well how both of us are." Richard enunciates clearly.
Thomas thinks that it is unusual and almost impolite for Richard to be so specific, but Richard always thinks much further ahead than Thomas has ever claimed or been able to do, so he leaves him to it.
Jimmy swallows. "If it isn't too much trouble, I would be much appreciative if you would take him, you can provide him a much better life than I ever can."
"I promise not to bother you. I have come to the realization that men like you are alright, as I have mentioned to Thomas before." Jimmy adds sincerely.
Thomas makes a noise of concurrence.
Richard nods approvingly.
"Please do not think I was presumptive, but I remember how much you, Thomas, love children and I wanted to be able to make amends for how I wronged you. I immediately thought of you when I realized I cannot take care of him properly." Jimmy continues. "I appreciate this."
"Not a problem, Jimmy. In fact, I have a suspicion that Thomas rather likes this course of events." Richard replies amusedly.
With one last nod and shake of hands, Jimmy takes his leave.
Thomas and Richard have raised James ever since.
"Alright. One thing you can thank Jimmy for." Thomas concedes, smiling.
"I knew I could." Richard smiles back, kissing Thomas again.
James just laughs, wrapping his arms around their legs for a group hug.
Thank you, Jimmy. Thomas thinks to himself.
A/N: 51stcenturygirl has decided that Thomas and Richard would make wonderful parents, so I may or may not have taken it upon myself to write as many ways to make that possible as I can…. My apologies if the way and speed in which Richard relents is a little bit too quick or odd and Thomas and Richard are both a little bit out of character.
The scarves are the property of 51stcenturygirl, no matter how much I wish I owned one myself. Reviews are appreciated!